The lefty, acquired as free agent compensation after the 2018 season, has yet to appear with the first team. He has been named to start on Saturday against the Orix Buffaloes at Kyocera Dome.
“Some of the young guys have times when they are a little uneasy, so we want a veteran to go out and give it his best shot,” pitching coach Fumiya Nishiguchi said of Utsumi, who is expected to join the team in Osaka on Thursday.
“If he can draw on all his skill on the mounds, that will be enough.”
The 38-year-old was originally drafted by the Orix BlueWave, but turned them down since he desired to play for the Giants, for whom his grandfather also played.
Dragons’ Ono has got this 10-K complete game thing down
For the third straight Sunday, Yudai Ono delivered a 10-strikeout complete-game victory, as the Chunichi Dragons lefty beat the Yomiuri Giants for the second week in a row, this time 4-1 at Tokyo Dome.
Ono (3-3) was asked if he had done anything differently after going 0-3 in his first six starts.
His answer: “I pitched well, but wasn’t getting wins because I’d give up the early lead and couldn’t stick around long enough for my team to score, so that has been my goal.”
Ono, who throws from a three-quarter arm slot, has the highest average fastball velocity among left-handed starters in Japan this season (146.3 kph or 90.9 mph). His fastball appeared to have more spin than usual, making it especially dangerous in combination with his two-seam sinker.
(One has to be careful in Japan with the expressions two-seam and sinker, the first is sometimes applied to a “shoot” a running fastball that is not intended to sink, and sometimes to a major-league style two-seamer, which is really Ono’s sinker, rather than a Japanese-language sinker, which is actually a screwball.)
The Dragons opened the scoring on Toshiki Abe’s fifth home run, a second-inning solo shot off Seishu Hatake (0-2), and Yoshihiro Maru tied it with his 10th homer in the home half. The two-time MVP uppercut a high 1-1 splitter from Ono and really launched it.
Chunichi completed the scoring in the fifth on a two-run double by shortstop Yota Kyoda, who scored on catcher Takuya Kinoshita’s single.
Hatake missed with a high straight 1-0 fastball and Shuhei Takahashi hammered it on the ground through the infield for a leadoff single. Abe did the same with a straight 2-1 fastball in the heart of the zone, hitting it between first and second to put runners on the corners.
The right-hander left a first-pitch changeup up in the zone to Kyoda, and he also slammed it, this time just over the bag at first and into the right-field corner for a double. Kinoshita fouled off a high fat slider for Strike 1, but hit lined a better 0-1 slider to right to make it 4-1.
Hatake went six, but the way Ono was pitching it didn’t matter.
After last week’s win, Ono said, “I’m not a very good pitcher so I just try to execute each pitch as well as I can.”
This week’s self-deprecating remark was: “I’m not one of those pitchers who go to the mound to start the game thinking, ‘I want to throw a perfect game.’ I kind of see how things go, and if it looks like it, I’ll give it a shot.”
Ono praises no-hit Ogawa
Ono said he was inspired by Yasuhiro Ogawa’s no-hitter on Saturday night in Yokohama, the first one since Ono’s on Sept. 14 against the Hanshin Tigers.
“For him to pitch his way out of a no-out, two-on jam in the eighth inning after a teammate made an error? As a pitcher myself, I thought that was simply amazing,” Ono said.
Submariner Yamanaka torpedoes BayStars
Submarine right-hander Hirofumi Yamanaka (1-1) allowed two runs over five innings for the 34-year-old journeyman’s first win in nearly two years as the Yakult Swallows beat the DeNA BayStars 7-4 at Yokohama Stadium.
Tetsuto Yamada and Norichika Aoki propelled the Swallows’ offense combining for four runs and five RBIs. BayStars starter Kentaro Taira (3-3) allowed six runs over 3-2/3 innings.
Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama worked a scoreless ninth to record his seventh save.
Beauty pageants in Japanese are referred to as “miss contests” and that would be a suitable description for the Hiroshima Carp and Hanshin Tigers’ 2-2 10-inning tie at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Tigers starting pitcher Takumi Akiyama survived a first-inning error that contributed to a one-out bases-loaded jam, but 21-year-old Carp right-hander Atsushi Endo failed to catch a break.
Veteran shortstop Kosuke Tanaka bobbled a grounder to put the leadoff man on. A single and a walk to Jerry Sands loaded them up. The youngster got cleanup hitter Yusuke Ono to hit into a double play and broke Justin Bour’s bat, but his stick died a hero as the ball got over the infield for an RBI single.
Akiyama worked five scoreless inning. First-year importJoe Gunkel gave up one run over two innings of relief on a pair of mistakes to Seiya Suzuki and Ryuhei Matsuyama. Suzuki drove a triple off the center-field wall and scored on a a hard-hit single by Matsuyama.
Carp leadoff man Ryoma Nishikawa scored the tying run after a single, a sacrifice, an error and a wild pitch and the game ended in a tie when it was called after 10 innings.
Effectively wild Ishikawa beats Buffaloes
Right-hander Shuta Ishikawa had as much trouble hitting the glove as the Orix Buffaloes did hitting his pitches over 5-2/3 scoreless innings in the SoftBank Hawks’ 6-2 win on Sunday at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
The Hawks beat up lefty Andrew Albers (2-5) for four runs over two innings. Albers gave up five hits, walked one and hit one. Three of his losses this season have come against the Hawks.
Ishikawa (0-5) allowed two hits but walked six and hit a batter while striking out six. The Buffaloes scored both their runs off submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi in the seventh.
Marine recruit leads Lotte’s charge
Koshiro Wada made the most of his first starting assignment on Sunday, scoring three times from the Lotte Marines’ leadoff spot to fuel a 6-5 victory over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Wada, a 21-year-old who played in the independent Baseball Challenge league before signing with the Marines as a non-roster developmental player in 2018, struck out in his debut on Friday. But given a chance to start against right-hander Drew VerHagen, the left-handed hitter took some aggressive cuts.
He singled, stole second, and was sacrificed to third by Shogo Nakamura and scored in the first, third, and fifth innings. Leonys Martin also stole three bases for Lotte.
“I was so nervous before today’s game, I couldn’t eat,” he said.
Wada struck out in his last two at-bats.
Seiya Inoue drove in three runs for Lotte and set up the final go-ahead run in the eighth with a leadoff walk, while No. 3 hitter Leonys Martin drove in one run and scored twice.
Sho Nakata put the Marines in front briefly with his 17th home run, a third-inning shot off lefty Toshiya Nakamura.
VerHagen, who had won his three previous starts, allowed five runs over 4-1/3 innings. The Fighters tied it in the sixth off new Marine Jose Flores, who like Wada joined the Marines after a stint with the independent Toyama Thunderbirds.
Frank Herrman (3-0) struck out the bottom of the Fighters’ order in the eighth. He earned the win in after Tatsuhiro Tamura doubled in pinch-runner Hiromi Oka against veteran lefty Naoki Miyanishi (1-1) in the home half of the inning. Naoya Masuda worked a 1-2-3 ninth against the top of the Fighters’ order to earn his 15th save.
Old-timer Kuriyama sparks Lions
Takumi Kuriyama, his speed and arm dented by wear and tear, sparkled in a rare outfield start with his glove and bat to boost the Seibu Lions to an 11-1 plucking of the Rakuten Eagles at MetLife Dome.
With two outs and two on in the top of the first Kuriyama made a leaping grab of a Stefen Romero drive headed for the wall to end the inning and save two runs.
The 34-year-old singled to lead off the second and hustled home to score the first run in the two-run inning. After Eagles starter Yuya Fukui (0-2) walked the first two batters he faced in the third, Kuriyama blasted a three-run homer. Kuriyama finished with three hits and a walk.
Lions starter Keisuke Honda (1-4) scattered five hits and three walks to allow one run over five innings and earn the win.
Jones returns to Osaka early
Adam Jones, who joined the Pacific League’s Orix Buffaloes from this season, returned home to Osaka on Sunday from Fukuoka prior to his team’s afternoon game against the SoftBank Hawks, according to the Sankei Sports.
It marked the second time Jones, who turned 35 on Aug. 1, has been omitted from Orix’s game-day roster. He was also sidelined on Aug. 9 with discomfort in his right heel. Jones has played in 48 games and so far has a .313 on-base percentage and a .362 slugging average.
Marines’ Laird returns to U.S. for treatment
Lotte Marines third baseman Brandon Laird has returned to the United States for treatment on his lower back the Pacific League club said Sunday according to website Full-Count.
Laird was deactivated on Aug. 5 due to lower back stiffness. In 147 plate appearances over 39 games he has six home runs with a .299 on-base percentage and a .391 slugging average.
Manabu Mima got burned early and then was as careful as careful can be, allowing three runs over seven innings against Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who struggled to adjust to a lack of command and coughed up five runs in 5-2/3 innings in a 6-5 win for the Lotte Marines over Orix.
Brandon Laird homered to break a 5-5 tie in the eighth, and Jay Jackson finished it off with his first save in Japan in two years as the Marines managed their eighth-straight win and a six-game sweep of the Orix Buffaloes. See the live blog below for more in depth coverage.
Seibu submariner Kaito Yoza did not allow a hit after the second inning, three relievers worked 1-2-3 innings, and 23-year-old SoftBank rookie Keisuke Izumi (0-1) was thrown into the Lions’ den in the ninth inning of a tie game. He loaded the bases with no outs for Tomoya Mori who singled in the winning run at MetLife Dome in a 4-3 victory.
Yuki Yanagita of the Hawks opened the scoring in the first with his third home run, and Hotaka Yamakawa tied it in the sixth with his fifth home run.
New Lions reliever Reed Garrett struck out the side in the eighth. He has retired all nine batters he’s faced since Friday, striking out six of them.
Sugiura outpitches Ishibashi in Fighters’ win
Nippon Ham Fighters starter Toshihiro Sugiura (1-0) struck out seven, while scattering five singles and a walk over six innings to allow two runs and earn the win in a 6-4 victory over the Rakuten Eagles.
Eagles starter Ryota Ishibashi (0-2) allowed five runs over four innings. Jabari Blash hit a two-run, eighth-inning home run for the Eagles.
Sanchez wins 2nd for Giants
Angel Sanchez (2-0) walked four, but pitched out of trouble three times to work six innings and earn the win as the Yomiuri Giants beat the Yakult Swallows 12-0. Kazuma Okamoto went 3-for-4 with a home run, an RBI single and a walk.
Morishita gives up 1st runs, earns 1st win
Elite Hiroshima Carp prospect Masato Morishita opened his pro career with 15 scoreless innings before the Chunichi Dragons scored three off him in the bottom of the ninth at Nagoya Dome. But after no decision in his debut, the rookie earned the win as Hiroshima came out on top 10-3.
Heading into the ninth, Morishita had a 10-run lead, having struck out seven, while allowing three hits, a walk and a hit batsman on 110 pitches. The rookie left after 136 pitches, the second time a Carp starter reached 130 over the weekend following ace Daichi Osera’s 132 on Friday.
The Carp already have two complete games this season, and first-year manager Shinji Sasaoka, who threw 66 in his career, seems to hold those in a higher regard than may be healthy for his pitching staff.
Kentaro Taira, whom the DeNA BayStars acquired after the 2016 season as free agent compensation for the Yomiuri Giants’ signing of Shun Yamaguchi, delivered his second-straight quality start, allowing one run over six innings to earn the win in a 9-1 victory over the Hanshin Tigers.
The BayStars welcomed Tigers starter Kenichi Nakata (0-1) back to the Central League with a leadoff double from Takayuki Kajitani and two-out doubles by captain Keita Sano and Toshiro Miyazaki. On a day when manager Alex Ramirez rested several regulars, catcher Yasutaka Tobashira started and singled in the BayStars’ third run of the inning.
BayStars drop Peoples, activate Escobar
The Central League’s DeNA BayStars swapped out starting pitcher Micheal Peoples for hard-throwing left-handed reliever Edwin Escobar on Sunday.
On Saturday, the right-handed Peoples allowed five runs over five innings in an 8-6 loss to the Hanshin Tigers after closer Yasuaki Yamasaki’s struggles continued by allowing three runs in the ninth inning.
In Peoples’ first start, he allowed a run over six innings with seven strikeouts against the Hiroshima Carp on June 20.
The 28-year-old Escobar is entering his fourth season in NPB. He pitched in 74 games last year with 88 strikeouts in 75-1/3 innings. He was 5-4 with 33 holds, the third highest figure in the CL behind Joely Rodriguez of the Dragons and Pierce Johnson of the Tigers, both of whom left Japan this year for jobs in the majors.
Manabu Mima vs Yoshinobu Yamamoto at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium east of Tokyo. The Marines have won seven straight, while the Buffaloes haven’t won since Yamamoto beat the Eagles the previous Sunday in Osaka.
Keita Nakagawa barrels up a running fastball up in the zone and pulls it down the left field line for a leadoff double. Ryoichi Adachi, a prototypical Japanese No. 2 hitter, a fast, light-hitting middle infielder, is up their sacrificing until the second strike.
Announcer “He wants to move that runner up of course, because you want the early lead and Yamamoto is on the mound.”
Adachi chops it behind the runner to first, bringing up tough lefty Masataka Yoshida, who looks at a backdoor slider for Strike 1 before getting jammed inside by a running fastball inside that he grounds to first as Adachi scores. Buffaloes 1, Marines 0.
Adam Jones lines a hanging first-pitch slider off the top of the wall in left but with the outfield playing him deep, he can only get a single. Takahiro Okada lines a 1-2 fastball down the pipe over the fence in right for a two-run shot and his second homer of the season. Buffaloes 3, Marines 0.
Mima gets out of the inning when Aderlin Rodriguez miss-hits a hanging slider and flies out to second.
After a week of hype about his stuff especially his curve, Yamamoto treats the Marines to first-inning heat. He falls behind with two high fastballs before getting leadoff man Takashi Ogino to pop up to second on a cutter up and in. Koki Fukuda takes a high curve for Ball 1 before missing three high fastballs. Ikuhiro Kiyota goes down chasing a 1-2 cutter on the outside edge.
Mima opens with some good pitches and gets an easy fly and a grounder to third. Shunta Goto keeps the inning alive by knocking a fat 1-0 running fastball between first and second. Goto steals second, but Nakagawa strikes out.
after a pair of hard cutters away, Yamamoto hangs a curve to Brandon Laird and he knocks it between third and short for a leadoff single. Leonys Martinez hits a skipping stone down the first base line and Okada is unable to handle it. He’s given an error and the Marines have runners on second and third.
Shogo Nakamura pops up an 0-1 splitter Yamamoto left up in the zone, and here comes Seiya “Asia” Inoue. The 114-kilogram right-handed hitter falls behind 0-2 but Yamamoto can’t find the outside corner and Inoue won’t chase and ends up walking him to load the bases.
Lotte catcher Tatsuhiro Tamura looks at beautiful cutter low and away and waves at fastball down the middle. Yamamoto’s splitter isn’t working and he bounces it for Ball 1. Another fastball in the heart of the zone and Tamura hits it off the end of the bat to center for a two-run single. Buffaloes 3, Marines 2.
Yamamoto getso out of trouble when Yudai Fujioka chops a high pitch to the mound and the pitcher starts a double play.
Mima leaves a fat 1-1 pitch up and Adachi slams it on the ground into left for a leadoff single. But Adachi 30-for-37 as a base stealer the past two years is cut down on a perfect throw by Tamura. Yoshida singles on a hanging forkball and along comes Jones.
Jones lines one off the end of the bat to second. Mima is staying away from the strike zone as much as he can, although he did sneak a curve down the middle past Okada, who walks. But Rodriguez pops up a low fastball for the third out.
Takashi Ogino leads off with a double past Nakagawa at third and Fukuda advances him to third by hitting behind the runner. With the infield in, Kiyota hits a bullet to short but Ogino, running on contact, easily scores the tying run. Laird grounds out on the next pitch and we’re tied. Marines 3, Buffaloes 3.
Mima is working ever so carefully now, showing his hard stuff and executing offspeed stuff in the zone, resulting in three miss-hit easy grounders and a 1-2-3 inning against the Buffaloes tail.
It’s back to the no-nonsense hard stuff for Yamamoto and two easy outs as Martin swings at a 1-2 fastball away and Nakamura grounds out.
But Yamamoto’s location is not great and every instance of attempted cuteness is costing him. He tries to get Inoue to chase and misses, and it’s another walk. Tamura is up there battling, intentionally fouling off the hard stuff and he walks on the 10th pitch.
Yudai Fujioka is not trying to walk. He’s taking some real swings. when Yamamoto misses with a straight high 1-2 fastball, he lines it to the gap in right for a single. Marines 4, Buffaloes 3.
The inning ends when Tamura is caught in a rundown between third and home. And if you’ve ever seen a more poorly executed rundown, I’d like to see it. Fujioka follows and they get two runners trapped at third and it still takes extra throws to get the out.
Nakagawa grounds out to second on two pitches. With two outs, Yoshida forces Mima over the plate and singles to center off the end of the bat. Tying run on first with Jones up.
First-pitch splitter, the best one Mima’s thrown so far, for a swinging strike out of the zone. Jones went after two pitches out of the zone last time, and Mima goes outside for 1-1. The splitter stays up, and Jones is on it, but smacks it straight to third for an easy out.
Ono up to lead off the fifth. Two hard strikes inside but nothing to change speeds with in the zone, and Ogino gets a good swing on a low fastball and finds a hole through the infield for a single. Fukuda launches a straight fastball on a line to the warning track in center but Goto overtakes it and makes a terrific catch.
Yamamoto is missing all over the place but catches one of his few breaks today. With Ogino running on a 2-2 pitch, Yamamoto hangs another curve and Kiyota doesn’t hit it well. Nakagawa gloves the soft liner at third and throws to first for an easy double play.
Okada falls behind 0-2 looking at a get-me-over slider, missing a running fastball away and grounding a slider to second. Rodriguez offers at two sliders outside, misses one and flies out easily on the second. The Buffaloes are really guessing badly. Wakatsuki is jammed by a fastball in the heart of the zone and grounds out to short.
Yamamoto gets Laird out easily but loses Martin with his fourth walk of the afternoon. Nakamura flies out on a beautiful cutter away after fouling off a slider for Strike 2. I may be wrong, but that could be the first strike Yamamoto has gotten from his slider all day.
After falling behind 2-0 to Inoue, Okada comes over to talk to Yamamoto, and it appears he is just killing time so someone can get warm in the bullpen. When Inoue lines the next pitch to right, Yamamoto’s looking around to see if he’s coming out of the game and he is.
26-year-old right-hander Keisuke Sawada on to try and get an out before Lotte gets another run. But Goto can’t catch a sinking liner to center. Marines 5, Buffaloes 3.
Three up, three down for Mima in the seventh. He’s retired seven straight and 13 of the last 14 and is at 96 pitches. It looks like he’s headed for the clubhouse in good shape for his second win.
Lefty Tomoyuki Kaida on in the seventh. After struggling with his command against Ogino, who flies out, Kaida needs just four pitches to retire Fukuda and Kiyota. It’s a nice bounce back for Kaida after he faced seven batters in his previous outing on Friday and allowed four runs.
Right-hander Fumiya Ono on in the eighth to preserve the two-run lead. Mima allowed three runs, all in the first inning, on seven hits. He walked one and struck out two over seven innings.
Adachi opens the inning by stinging a straight1-0 fastball for a single. Yoshida walks on four pitches. Jones hits a slider off the label, lining it straight to left for the first out.
Okada flairs a high 2-0 slider to center. Adachi scores, and Tamura fumbles the throw home, allowing Yoshida to reach third.
Ono is gone in favor of right-hander Taiki Tojo. Both Masuda and Okada are out for pinch runners. Yuya Oda is at third running for Yoshida. Kodai Sano, running at first, steals second.
Rodriguez singles in the tying run, but Sano is caught in a rundown for the second out with Rodriguez taking third during the confusion. Marines 5, Buffaloes 5.
Tojo strikes out Wakatsuki and the Marines avoid falling a run down.
Former closer Hirotoshi Masui on for Orix in the eighth to face former Nippon Ham Fighters teammate Brandon Laird.
Laird flies to center and the ball just gets over the glove of Goto, who leaps at the wall. Laird’s fifth home run makes it Marines 6, Buffaloes 5.
Martin strikes out swinging at a 1-2 splitter out of the zone, but Shogo Nakamura singles and Orix manager Norifumi Nishimura goes to the pen for another righty, Tomoki Higa to face Inoue.
Inoue flies out to bring up the Marines’ biggest troublemaker of the day, Tamura. He’s driven in three runs and his walk helped set up the go-ahead run in the fourth. The Marines catcher draws his second walk, causing Nishimura to come out of the dugout again.
The Buffaloes’ third pitcher of the inning is lefty Nobuyoshi Yamada, who strikes out Fujioka for the final out.
The reason we didn’t see Jay Jackson in the eighth is because manager Tadahito Iguchi was saving him for the ninth. He’s on now with a chance for his first save in Japan since 2018, his last season with the Hiroshima Carp.
Pinch-hitter Torai Fushimi waves at a slider and goes down swinging. The left-handed-hitting Goto is up and gets ahead 2-0 before taking a fastball for a strike. It’s 2-2 and Goto is up there spoiling now. Jackson misses with a slider and its 3-2, but got him to miss another at the bottom of the strike zone.
Nakagawa looks as Jackson misses with two sliders low and away, but watches a third down the pipe. A fastball away finds the zone and it’s 2-2. Another slider low out of the zone, Nakagawa offers, misses, and it’s all over as Jackson strikes out the side to end it.
The Giants suffered their first loss of the year, in June no less, while Justin Bour gets his first hit after starting his season 0-for-16, while the most highly touted rookie of the season runs into a buzz saw called Hideto Asamura. All that and more from Japan on Wednesday night.
Allen Kuri allowed an unearned run over seven innings, and the Hiroshima Carp beat the Yomiuri Giants 5-1 at Tokyo Dome.
Seiya Suzuki and Kosuke Tanaka each homered off Cristopher Mercedes, who lasted just three innings. Ryosuke Kikuchi, who gave up on finding at major league job before camp started and returned to the Carp, had three hits, including a home run.
BayStars’ bullpen holds on
Takayuki Kajitani, a player whose once electric future has been hampered by frequent injuries, homered to break a 2-2, fifth-inning tie at Yokohama Stadium, and a quartet of DeNA BayStars relievers held the Chunichi Dragons scoreless over the final four innings.
Spencer Patton, coming off a nightmare of a 2019 season, struck out two of the four batters he faced to set up for closer Yasuaki Yamasaki, who recorded his second save in precarious fashion.
After Yohei Oshima’s two-out single, Issei Endo missed the left field fair pole by a foot or two before drawing a walk. Another walk loaded the bases before Dayan Viciedo grounded out to end the game.
Former Giant Suarez stops Tigers
Former San Francisco Giants pitcher Albert Suarez (1-0) allowed an unearned run over six innings at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium to pitch the Yakult Swallows to a 6-1 win over the Hanshin Tigers. Suarez struck out four while allowing two singles. He walked a batter and hit a batter.
No one likes to lose, but there was no mistaking the relief on Justin Bour’s face when he singled in the seventh inning for his first hit since the season started on Friday.
Gunkel gets his feet wet
Tigers right-hander Joe Gunkel (0-1) allowed three runs in four innings on seven hits and two walks. His pitches sank a lot but the Swallows hitters made enough contact on them and it seemed like almost everything they put their bats to found a hole. While some of that was probably just bad luck, it appears Gunkel will need to make some adjustments. It’s a pretty common thing for new pitchers in Japan.
Wakui, Asamura spoil Kawano’s debut
Three days after his 34th birthday, Hideaki Wakui won his first game as a Rakuten Eagle, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out five over seven innings in a 5-2 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters.
The Eagles trailed rookie Ryusei Kawano 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth, when the Fighters walked Jabari Blash with two outs and a man on only for the inning to go south in a hurry.
With one run in and two on, Asamura launched an opposite-field homer off the end of his bat. He only had two hits but the two outs he made were pretty impressive in their own right.
Leonys Martin also singled, walked and scored a run for the Marines, who improved to 4-1, while former Cleveland Indians right-hander Frank Herrmann earned his third hold in the four games. The former Eagle is 1-0 in four scoreless outings so far in Chiba.
The Seibu Lions are kind of like Japan’s answer to pro wrestling. You can expect a lot of weird things, a lot of blows, a lot of falls. The combination of a historically good offensive and an unhealthy amount of mediocre pitching means no game is ever safe until the ref gives the final count.
Hideaki Wakui retired the Eagles in order in the first, finishing the inning by fanning Kensuke Kondo on three pitches, so that’s an impressive start for the veteran at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park.
It’s the pro debut of Ryusei Kawano*, the Fighters’ top draft pick in 2019 out of the corporate leagues.
The lefty popped up leadoff man Eigoro Mogi on a first-pitch fastball, but Jabari Blash fouled off a 2-2- pitch before walking on seven pitches. He does that a lot. New Eagle Daichi Suzuki flied out to deep right to bring up Hideto Asamura.
Kawano starts him off with a breaking ball in the dirt, and misses with a fastball and then another curve. Asamura takes a fastball right down the pipe for Strike 1, but puts a good swing on a curve from the lefty and pulls it past utility man Toshitake Yokoo at third.
With runners on the corners, and two outs, Kawano gets the tough Hiroaki Shimauchi to ground a high first-pitch fasrball to second for an easy force.
Ryo Watanabe grounded out before Wakui dodged a bullet. The right-hander got a tough call on a 2-2 changeup away to Kotaro Kiyomiya, and then hung a slider down the middle that the 21-year-old hammered to deep right, where Stefen Romero made the catch. Wakui then got Yokoo to wave at a 1-2 fastball away, and we go to the bottom of the second.
Bottom of 2nd
Kawano walks Romero to open the second. If he can stay healthy, this guy is going to be a tremendous acquisition. He gave Orix his best, but just suffered from one injury after another.
But Yasuhito Uchida grounds a first-pitch fastball to short, where Kazunari Ishii starts an easy double play. Kawano gets ahead of catcher Hikaru Ota 0-2 but loses him by missing low out of the zone. The rookie ends the inning when Ryosuke Tatsumi hammers a 3-2 slider, but Kiyomiya makes a nice grab behind the first base bag.
That’s 39 pitches for the rookie. Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama is perhaps the most iconoclastic in Japan at running his starting rotation, so there’s no telling how long he’ll stick with the kid.
Top of 3rd
Ishii grounds to second to open the Fighters third, as Wakui starts it against the last two hitters in the Nippon Ham order. A nice pick at third by Daichi Suzuki on a ball hit by catcher Yushi Shimizu and there’s two down.
Major league aspirant Haruki Nishikawa, who fouled out to open the game, does better this time, smacking a high 1-0 fastball to the gap for a double. Wakui then misses badly with a changeup inside to the right-handed-hitting Taishi Ota, and he muscles it over third for an RBI single. Fighters lead 2-0. Kondo goes down swinging for the second time to end the inning.
Kawano strikes out Mogi swinging with a high fastball, the rookie’s first career K. Blash grounds out and Suzuki hits a can of corn to right for Kawano’s easiest inning yet.
Nakata goes down swinging on a 3-2 curve, Watanabe hits an easy fly to right and Kiyomiya holds up on a fat-looking 3-2 fastball up and takes first on a walk. Yokoo shows some good discipline, but he can’t do anything with the pitches Wakui puts in the zone, and flies out to second.
Can Asamura hit or can he hit. Nice first-pitch slider at the bottom of the zone, but he was on it only for his liner to get within range of Nishikawa in left, who slides to make the grab. Shimauchi grounds a fastball to short this time for the second out, before Romero accidentaly beats the Fighters shift with a single up the middle.
The Fighters, who began aggressively shifting last year, had Watanabe pulled right behind the bag against the right-handed-hitting Romero who got jammed on an inside fastball with the ball rolling to the right field side of the second base bag. Kawano then jammed Uchida with another fastball inside and the inning’s over with a dinky liner to Kiyomiya at first.
Wakui is by no means overpowering, but his fastball has a little zip on it, and he’s mixing his pitches, keeping guys off barrels, and more importantly going after guys. Tatsumi in center has to make a long run for the second out, but it’s an easy 1-2-3 inning for the veteran.
Kawano will go at least five unless he runs into serious trouble here. He dispatches Ota with a fastball flied out to center, but walks the No. 9 hitter Tatsumi and danger lurks. Mogi fouls out well down the left field line, but Tatsumi tags up and takes second.
Kawano’s been starting most guys off with a slider for a while, but misses with a first-pitch fastball away to Blash. The rookie is definitely trying to keep his misses down, as he misses low. The Fighters decide to put Blash on, and after a chat with pitching coach Masao Kida, Kawano faces the lefty Suzuki.
Tatsumi steals third on the first pitch without a throw. Kawano hangs a 1-1 slider, and Suzuki slams it up the middle. Fighters 2, Eagles 1, with Blash cruising into third and Asamura in the driver’s seat.
Asamura miss-hits a 1-2 fastball away off the end of the bat and that puppy carries over the fence for a two-run homer. Eagles 4, Fighters 2.
Shimauchi flies out to end the inning, but damn Asamura is a hitter.
Wakui might not have much tonight, but he’s more or less locating his fastball, and he’s dictating the pace. He starts the sixth with easy outs against a couple of tough hitters, Ota and Kondo, who grounds out after two-straight punch-outs. Nakata, who missed a curve the last time up for Strike 3, looks at a fastball and down he goes.
Kazutomo Iguchi on the mound for the Fighters to face Romero. Kawano’s line: 4 runs over 5 innings on 5 walks (1 intentional), 4 hits and 1strikeout.
Romero is retired on a sharp play be Yokoo at third. But Uchida launches a liner to left, and Kondo cuts it off to hold him to a single. The Eagles’ top draft pick, Hiroto Kobukata is on to pinch run, and Ota bunts him to second.
Tatsumi reaches on an infield single. Runners on the corners with two outs for Mogi, who battles but grounds out.
–Defensive change: Kobukata, who ran for the first baseman Uchida, stays in to play short. Mogi moves to third, Suzuki goes across to first.
Kobukata wastes no time in showing off his glove. Diving to his left to snag a one-hop smash and throw out Watanabe to open the inning. Kyomiya flies out to Mogi at third, and if Yokoo hits it to Suzuki at first, the Eagles will have a defensive substitution trifecta.
But Yokoo finally puts a good swing on a changeup in the zone and lines it to center for a single. Yuya Taniguguchi bats for the Ishii and fouls out to third.
Iguchi still in for the Fighters, and a 3-2 slider to Blash is hit off the end of the bat for a deep fly to left. Suzuki gets jammed and lines out, while Iguchi shatters Asamura’s bat he still drives it to deep center.
Right-hander ALAN BUSENITZ in for Wakui. The 34-year-old leaves after an impressive night. His line: 2 runs over 7 innings, on 1 walk, four hits and five strikeouts.
Busenitz needs just nine pitches to take the Fighters out of the eighth inning and everything is going right for the Eagles.
Rookie Kenya Suzuki* — of the funky delivery — surrenders a hustling one-out double to Romero, who leaves for a pinch runner. Yokoo can’t make a circus catch on a smash by Ota down the third base line and he doubles in Kobukata. Eagles 5, Fighters 2.
Kohei Morihara in for the three-run save here in the ninth. He’s got Kondo, Nakata and Watanabe due up.
Kondo lines an 0-2 pitch to left for the first out. A fly out to left center, and Kobukata fields a one-hopper at short and makes the throw to first to end it as the Eagles improve to 4-1.
This is a battle of the ages as 34-year-old Hideaki Wakui takes the mound for the first time with his new team, the Eagles, against perhaps the top pitching prospect of last autumn’s NPB draft, 22-year-old lefty Ryusei Kawano.
Imai, the Lions’ first pick in the 2016 draft, turned pro out of high school. He threw 135-1/3 innings last season, when he walked 72 batters, the second-highest total in Japan, topped only by Kodai Senga’s 75 — although the Hawks’ ace led both leagues with 180-1/3 innings pitched.
Among pitchers with 90-plus innings, he was fourth in his percentage of pitches outside the zone, and couldn’t get batters to chase and gave up more than his share of hard contact. About half of his pitches so far have been four-seam fastball (146 kph avg velocity), with sliders next and curves and changeups rounding out his mix through 2019. He’s had his best results with the slider and change. Like most pitchers the question will be whether he can locate his fastball often enough.
Ishikawa appeared in two regular season games after coming back from a right hamstring injury in the spring that was followed by a right-knee injury. He’s a fastball, curve, slider guy, with a couple of different curves, and an occasional splitter.
A 28-year-old, Ishikawa worked his way up from a non-roster developmental contract like ace Kodai Senga and starting catcher Takuya Kai. In 2018, when he threw 127-1/3 innings, the right-hander’s hard-contact percentage was sixth-lowest in Japan among pitchers with 90-plus innings. Even without a single dominant pitch, Ishikawa attacks the zone but misses barrels.
Marines vs Buffaloes: Zozo Marine Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Ojima was Lotte’s third pick in the 2018 draft out of Waseda University. As a rookie in 2019, his mix was a 139 kph fastball with a cutter and splitter. He didn’t work in the zone and walked a lot of batters, but was around the NPB average in strikeout percentage despite missing fewer bats than almost anyone in NPB.
Kohei “K” Suzuki
Known in Japanese as “K-Suzuki” a play on teammate Takahiro Okada’s registered name “T-Okada.” The right-hander was Orix’s secon pick in the 2017 draft, and needed something to distinguish him from minor league infielder Kohei Suzuki, thus the “K”.
Despite the moniker, Suzuki was below the team average in strikeouts and above average in walks. He’s a fastball (145.1 kph in 2019), slider guy with an occasional curve and split. The split and the fastball had the best results in 2019. In 102-2/3 innings in 2019, he was in the zone more than the league average, and was had the second lowest ground/fly ratio in Japan among pitchers with 90-plus innings, although his home run rate on fly balls was just ordinary.
Tuesday marked the start of the first full week of pro baseball in Japan, when the Pacific League enters into its pandemic travel protocols, limiting cross-country travel by playing six-game series.
Rookie Togo pitches Giants to 4th straight win
Twenty-year-old right-hander Shosei Togo, the Giants’ sixth pick in the 2018 draft allowed two runs over 6-2/3 innings while striking out seven to outduel Hiroshima’s Kris Johnson, who walked three and allowed three runs over five innings. It was Johnson’s first loss at Tokyo Dome in over three years.
Defending Central League champion Yomiuri won 3-2 to improve to 4-0 on the season. Kazuma Okamoto had two hits, singled in one run and forced in another with a walk.
Gerardo Parra, who homered twice in the opening series against Hanshin, went 2-for-3 with a line out, while Rubby De La Rosa earned his second save.
Marte, Tigers spoil Ynoa’s debut
Jefry Marte capped a three-run first inning at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium with a two-run home run off former Orioles right-hander Gabriel Ynoa, as the Hanshin Tigers beat the Swallows 5-1 for their first win of the season. Marte went 3-for-4.
Austin guns down 2, drives in 1 in BayStars win
DeNA BayStars right fielder Tyler Austin threw out a base runner to end a fourth-inning Chunichi Dragons rally and had four hits, including an RBI single that broke up a scoreless game in the fifth in a 3-0 win at Yokohama Stadium
The BayStars’ rally was keyed by a leadoff double by shortstop Yamato Maeda, leading off from the ninth spot after starting pitcher Haruhito Hamaguchi, batting eighth, ended the previous inning. Jose Lopez singled in the inning’s other run.
Austin, who threw out Toshiki Abe at the plate, was also cut down twice on the bases, but evened the score in the ninth, when he threw out Abe at home for the second time in the game.
Spangenberg breaks out
Corey Spangenberg put good swings on straight pitches in the zone for his first big game in Japan, going 4-for-5 with a grand slam and a strikeout in the Seibu Lions’ 11-3 win over the SoftBank Hawks at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo.
It was a welcome sight for Lions fans after the left-handed hitter flailed at low and away breaking balls over the weekend with eight strikeouts over the first three games.
Matt Moore, making his first start in over a year, missed some locations, and made a costly fielding error on a potential double play comebacker and allowed six runs, four earned over 5-1/3 innings.
Lotte’s Seiya Inoue singled in the tying run in the ninth inning at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, and the Lotte Marines walked off 6-5 winners when Orix Buffaloes closer Brandon Dickson hit Takashi Ogino after an intentional walk loaded the bases to set up a force at the plate.
Trailing 3-0 after four thanks to first-inning homers from Ikuhiro Kiyota and Brandon Laird off Buffaloes starter Andrew Albers, Adam Jones hit his first home run in Japan and drew a walk in Orix’s three-run sixth.
Hayato Yuge, a 1.93-meter lefty, struck out six and walked one over 6-1/3 innings, while Hideto Asamura and new Eagle Stefen Romero both hit long home runs in a 4-0 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Fighters’ starter Nick Martinez, making his first start since 2018 after his 2019 season was derailed by injury, struck out seven but allowed four runs on eight hits and two walks over five innings.
I didn’t really have a good idea how our live viewing event would turn out. The purpose was to make NPB games more accessible to readers, but with most of the participants already well-versed in the game here, it was a fun, free-wheeling discussion as the Lions-Hawks game went on in the background.
I hope to do about three a month, because I can only do them on my days off, and I can’t blog or do anything else while we’re doing it. More than half the participants were joining from the U.S. or Canada so it was hard with a 5 am EDT start time. I am in awe of these people.
Tuesday’s starting pitchers notes
Here were the starting pitchers. All three of the PL visiting starters are imports (Nick Martinez, Matt Moore, Andrew Albers), while two of the three CL starters (Kris Johnson and Gabriel Ynoa) are. Moore and Ynoa will be making their Japan debuts.
Lions pitchers led Japan with a record 93 hit batsmen. The Lions had set the previous record of 84 in 2018. Only one other team, the 2004 Orix BlueWave, has hit more than 80. I mention this because Takahashi led all pitchers in Japan with 14, which doesn’t crack the top 20 all-time. I guess they just don’t make ’em like they used to. The record is 22, by Toshiaki Moriyasu of the 1969 Toei Flyers, but it took him 341-2/3 innings to get there.
Moore was one of three players taken in the eighth round of the 2007 MLB draft to reach the majors and turned 31 on Thursday, probably the first time in his career his birthday came before Opening Day. On April 6, 2019, his season ended when he damaged the meniscus in his right knee when fielding a bunt. This will be his first regular-season start since then.
I haven’t talked to the Hawks’ scouts but one would think that since virtually every Hawks pitcher throws a knuckle curve or a spike curve, Moore will fit right in.
Albers is coming off a tough 2019 season, when more or less everything went south for him. He gave up more had contact, gave up home runs twice as often as he had in 2018 when he went 9-2 with a 3.02 ERA, and his fielders caught few of the balls opponents did put in play.
He’s 4-0 in eight career games against the Marines with a 2.66 ERA, but that’s 1-0, 4.03 in Chiba, and 3-0, 1.44 elsewhere.
Johnson is the veteran among Tuesday’s import starters, having won the prestigious Sawamura Award as Japan’s top starting pitcher in 2016–when his numbers were virtually identical to his 2015 figures.
He’s 57-30 in his Japan career, but 9-3 against the Giants, who though they won the league last year, were fairly mediocre from 2016 to 2018. Johnson is 5-1 at Tokyo Dome in his career. His only loss there an 8-inning complete-game defeat in May 2016.